Sharky

Questions that Sharky gets a lot

Q: What's a pilot fish?

A: There are two answers to that question. One is the Mother Nature version: Pilot fish are small fish that swim just ahead of sharks. When the shark changes direction, so do the pilot fish. When you watch underwater video of it, it looks like the idea to change direction occurred simultaneously to shark and pilot fish.

Thing is, sharks go pretty much anywhere they want, eating pretty much whatever they want. They lunge and tear and snatch, but in so doing, leave plenty of smorgasbord for the nimble pilot fish.

The IT version: A pilot fish is someone who swims with the sharks of enterprise IT -- and lives to tell the tale. Just like in nature, a moment's inattention could end the pilot fish's career. That's life at the reef.

Q: Are all the Sharky stories true?

A: Yes, as best we can determine.

Q: Where do the Sharky tales come from?

A: From readers. Sharky just reads and rewrites and basks in the reflected glory of you, our readers. It is as that famous fish-friendly philosopher Spinoza said, "He that can carp in the most eloquent or acute manner at the weakness of the human mind is held by his fellows as almost divine."

Q: How do I get one of those fabulous Sharky T-shirts?

A: Here's how it works. You send us your tale of perfidy, heroism or just plain weirdness at your IT shop. If Sharky selects it for publication, you get the shirt -- free and clear, no handling charges.

Q: Do I have to write my story in Sharky-ese?

A: No. Not at all. Just be sure to give us details. What happened, to whom, what he said, what she said, how it all worked out.

Q: I've got a really funny story, but I could get fired if my old trout of a boss found out I told you. How confidential is what I send to Sharky?

A: We don't publish names: yours, your boss's, your trout's, your company's. We try to file off the serial numbers, though there's no absolute guarantee that someone who lived through the incident won't recognize himself. Our aim is to share the outrageous, knee-slapping, milk-squirting-out-your-nose funny tales that abound in the IT world, not to get you fired. That would not be funny.

Q: You published my tale. Where's my T-shirt?

A: Hey, hey, cut us a break. You sent your tale over the Internet. If we could send your Shark shirt that way, you can bet we would.

Because most Shark Tank submissions don't include a full mailing address, we have to contact each pilot fish to get the address before sending out a T-shirt. That's done in batch mode, so it can take anywhere from a day to a few weeks. When things really get backed up, it can fall behind as much as a month or more.

But be assured: Sharky vows to forget no one!

Occasionally by the time your tale sees print, your e-mail address will have changed. If your e-mail address changed after you sent your contribution and you never got your shirt, let us know at sharky@computerworld.com. We'll get right on it.

Q: How do I get each new Shark Tank tale emailed to me?

Easy. Subscribe to the newsletter.

Q: Where are the Sharkives?

Tales of old can be found in Sharky's archive.


Throwback Thursday: Hey, what's another six months?

Pilot fish is hired to support an application that tracks orders on a manufacturing plant's shop floor. And it's terrible -- but it'll be replaced real soon now, right?

Where's the fire?

This data center has a high-end mainframe, Halon to protect it from fire and an operator who never smokes in the computer room. So which one brings the firefighters?

How to quit smoking in 90 days

Pilot fish gets a job working as a field engineer for a small local tech company run by two married couples -- and they don't hesitate to share their favorite pastime.

Not that I ever doubted you...

This government office has two mainframes side by side in its computer room -- and a big problem that only shows up when a computer operator happens to reach out to them.

It's not the tool -- it's how you use it

It's long ago, and this senior secretary is getting a top-of-the-line IBM Selectric typewriter -- and lording it over her co-workers. But why is it suddenly so balky?

Throwback Thursday: Yeah, but it worked!

This engineering office gets a new copier/printer, but to make it play well with the package-shipping software, one PC needs to be rebooted -- and that's a no-no.

Details, details

IT security team at this university gets a rude awakening: Somebody is using one of their servers to launch denial-of-service attacks -- and that's not the worst of it.

Can't stay, gotta fly!

This system administrator works for a non-profit organization in the western U.S., and he keeps strict office hours -- on a schedule that stretches from coast to coast.

Perfect, redefined

It's the early days of big-iron computing, when IT is called Data Processing and this programmer pilot fish has a program that has compiled perfectly -- or so it appears.

Forget IT -- this guy obviously belongs in sales!

This IT pilot fish is team lead for an ex-mechanic with no programming aptitude, skills or training. So how long could he possibly last as a software developer?

New year, same old users

IT support pilot fish takes a call to help a user change a password on a webpage form -- and it reminds fish of just how much help-desk techs love password resets.

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